Obesity medication lorcaserin activates brainstem GLP-1 neurons to reduce food intake and augments GLP-1 receptor agonist induced appetite suppression

Stefan Wagner, Daniel I Brierley, Alasdair Leeson-Payne, Wanqing Jiang, Raffaella Chianese, Brian Y H Lam, Georgina K C Dowsett, Claudia Cristiano, David Lyons, Frank Reimann, Fiona M Gribble, Pablo B Martinez de Morentin, Giles S H Yeo, Stefan Trapp, Lora K Heisler* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Overweight and obesity are endemic in developed countries, with a substantial negative impact on human health. Medications developed to treat obesity include agonists for the G-protein coupled receptors glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1R; e.g. liraglutide), serotonin 2C (5-HT 2CR; e.g, lorcaserin), and melanocortin4 receptor (MC4R) which reduce body weight primarily by suppressing food intake. However, the mechanisms underlying the therapeutic food intake suppressive effects are still being defined and were investigated here.

METHODS: We profiled PPG neurons in the nucleus of the solitary tract (PPG NTS) using single nucleus RNA sequencing (Nuc-Seq) and histochemistry. We next examined the requirement of PPG NTS neurons for obesity medication effects on food intake by virally ablating PPG NTS neurons. Finally, we assessed the effects on food intake of the combination of liraglutide and lorcaserin.

RESULTS: We found that 5-HT 2CRs, but not GLP-1Rs or MC4Rs, were widespread in PPG NTS clusters and that lorcaserin significantly activated PPG NTS neurons. Accordingly, ablation of PPG NTS neurons prevented the reduction of food intake by lorcaserin but not MC4R agonist melanotan-II, demonstrating the functional significance of PPG NTS 5-HT 2CR expression. Finally, the combination of lorcaserin with GLP-1R agonists liraglutide or exendin-4 produced greater food intake reduction as compared to either monotherapy.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings identify a necessary mechanism through which obesity medication lorcaserin produces its therapeutic benefit, namely brainstem PPG NTS neurons. Moreover, these data reveal a strategy to augment the therapeutic profile of the current frontline treatment for obesity, GLP-1R agonists, via coadministration with 5-HT 2CR agonists.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101665
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Metabolism
Early online date10 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Lorcaserin
  • Liraglutide
  • Preproglucagon
  • Nucleus tractus solitarii
  • Brainstem
  • Serotonin 2C receptor


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